Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Bay City: River of Time 2022

The meteorologists lied to us once again.  Up through the night before they predicted sunny skies with temps in the mid-60s,  as they've been saying all week,  for the day I was to attend Bay City's River of Time.  But---nope!---we awakened Saturday morning to an overcast sky,  and had showers nearly the entire two-hour drive north to this small Michigan city.  And once we arrived we had another downpour.  However,  by 11 a.m.  the rain subsided and pretty much remained that way for the rest of the time I was there.  Clouds were a constant,  however.
Over the years I've heard a lot of good things about Bay City's River of Time timeline event,  but I've not been to it before.  This year was my first time attending...and participating.  Timeline events seem to be growing in popularity of  late,  especially as doing a mock battle becomes more difficult  (hint---why we need more younger people participating!!).  However,  Bay City's River of Time has been going on for thirty years,  so they were a forerunner of  the gamut.  At least in this area.  I consider it an honor to be asked to take part in such a longstanding tradition such as this.
Upon walking the grounds,  I was impressed with the amount of reenactors there - tents could be seen stretched out for hundreds of yards...and then some...that was great to see.
This tells me that contrary to popular belief,  reenacting is alive and well.
One part of the area for reenactors.  The tents stretched beyond the trees.
The way it has been for the most part this year has been that the reenacting numbers have been down.  Well,  if they were down at Bay City,  it sure wasn't noticeable to me!  And there was a strong visitor count as well - even with the cool damp weather.  And I do believe numbers will rise even higher within the next couple of  years;  after two and a half  years of  fear being instilled into people's brains,  it may take a bit of time to expel it and get them to come out.
But,  yeah...I'll say it again:  reenacting is alive and well.
Another area for the reenactors to camp in.
And there were other sections I did not capture the images of.

Hey!  Hey!
Look who is listed first on the program!
I truly am honored.
It was early this past spring that I was asked to do my portrayal of  Paul Revere for this event,  and I readily accepted.  Paul Revere has been my patriot hero since I was a child and I have not had many opportunities to portray him of late - it's been since March that I had - so,  yeah,  here was a chance to bring him to life again and to tell the truth of his story.  My only real concern was I hoped I would not be too rusty,  since it's been a while.  Judging by the response I received from the audience after my engagement had ended - and the personal comments I received from a few folk as I roamed about the event afterward - my concerns dissipated.  
They liked it!
Shortly before my speech I was asked by a patron if I get nervous speaking in front of an audience.  My answer was a resounding  "no"  for I have been in front of audiences most of my adult life,  either playing my guitar,  taking part in the Holly Dickens Festival,  which really played a role in over-coming shyness  (if I had any in the first place),  then reenacting - you can't be shy if you reenact for there are always people watching you,  photographing you,  and asking you questions - and then performing with my Simply Dickens vocal group.
Even as a child I liked to sort of perform by singing Beatles'  songs constantly in front of people with my pretend mic  (a stick or a brush)  and air guitar  (before anyone knew what an air guitar was,  by the way),  or even on one of the toy plastic guitars I would receive here and there before I got my first  "real"  guitar.
Ain't no room for shyness in my life!
I stood upon the deck/porch of
an 1860s cabin for my presentation.
Two lanterns were  "shewn"  in the
steeple of the Old North Church
It is an honor for me to portray Paul Revere.  This early patriot  did more than most people realize - too many still believe the myths and rumors and,  in more recent times,  condemnations without taking the time to search for themselves for the truth  (isn't that the way it is these days?) - and I like to believe Mr.  Revere himself  is happy with what I'm doing.
I also work on de-Longfellow-izing him,  that is,  pointing out that the Poem written in his honor,  Paul Revere's Ride,  was far from the truth:
As is stated on the Paul Revere Heritage Project website,  “(Longfellow)  meant to retell the story taking the liberty to dramatize Revere’s individuality,  patriotism and the fight for independence.  Longfellow created a national icon from a local folk hero hardly known outside Massachusetts.  He also dramatized Revere’s ride creating a national myth.
During  (the last half)  of the nineteenth century Longfellow’s poem was considered a historical account and evidence of what happened the night of April 18,  1775 and many textbooks were written based on Longfellow’s poem.  During the 20th century,  textbook writers and historians tried to portray a more objective account of the facts.  They argued about the inaccuracies of the poet’s account and what were the real events,  they tried to demythologize the poem. 
Nevertheless,  Longfellow's poem has become so successful and ingrained in every American mind that readers no longer remember it as a poem but as a national legend.  It is a reminder of the patriotism that led to independence and a part of the American culture."
No,  I did not ride through the countryside yelling,  "The British are coming!"
Patriotism is a wonderful thing,  so I can appreciate that.  But let's find the patriotism in truth rather than myths.  That's my goal.  Paul Revere was a great man who did wonderful things and deservedly belongs in his place in American History,  to be sure,  but he was not a god nor a man without fault.
To read a concise piece on Revere that covers the truth of  what happened on the night of  April 18th,  1775,  please click HERE.
One of the things I really got a kick out of  while here in Bay City,  where I know very few people  (even in the reenacting world in this area),  was when people wanted my attention they did not yell out to me  "Hey Ken!"  Rather,  aside from a very few folk I was only known as Paul Revere or,  as most would say,  "Mr.  Revere."
That was kind of cool.
My friend and fellow patriot Ben Franklin  (aka Bob Stark)  was there,  too,  and he and his daughter had their sutlery set up to sell some very cool history-oriented items to any interested patron.
Ben Franklin's Salty Lantern

Bob's daughter,  Abby Stark,  a Tea historian,  sells the type of tea that
was dumped over-board by the Sons of Liberty on the night of December 16,  1773. 
She also does presentations on historic tea.  Yep---just in time for the
250th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party next year!

However,  once I,  as Paul Revere - a Son of Liberty,  saw what she was selling in her father's shop,  why,  I became a little miffed:
I began to grab as much of the tea as I could so I could throw it in the nearby Saginaw River.  Miss Abby,  however,  was quite adamant on that I not  do  such a thing and prevented me from carrying out my political protest.

Ah...all is well and good between us,  dear madam. 
You may have your tea.

This group is so good!
The Tittabawassee Fife and Drum Corps performed in front of the cabin immediately following my presentation,  which made for the perfect interlude and connection
between myself and the man who came after me:

Abby's father,  who portrays  thee  Benjamin Franklin,  gave a speech at
the very same cabin where I was at just a short time before.
Bob Stark has been portraying America's First True Son for over a decade now, 
and does a marvelous job at his portrayal.
Franklin earned the title of   "The First American"  for his early campaigning for colonial unity,  and as an author and spokesman in London for several colonies.  As the first United States ambassador to France,  he exemplified the emerging American nation.
Bob does the original Franklin proud,  and I believe the two men had
very similar personalities.

Being that River of Time is a timeline event,  showing not only military but civilian and frontier life as well,  I also have other photos of  a few of the reenacting groups that took part:
We see Voyageurs intermingling with the local Indian tribes.
The Voyageurs befriended,  learned from and intermarried with the local Indians who were already here when they arrived.  They built earthen huts and farmed  "strip farms,"  bought,  sold,  and traded animal fur and pelts,  and adapted the Indian-style canoes to move about the waterways.

Explaining daily life living utensils of the 18th century.
Such a great teaching moment for the kids sitting up front as well as the
adults standing behind.

Pre-Revolution French & Indian War era was well-represented at Bay City.
The French and Indian War was the North American conflict in a larger imperial war between Great Britain and France known as the Seven Years' War.  The war provided Great Britain enormous territorial gains in North America,  but disputes over subsequent frontier policy and paying the war's expenses  
(re:  the Stamp Act of 1765)  led to colonial discontent,  and ultimately to the American Revolution.   
The heavy overcast of clouds gave for interesting photo opportunities
as these soldiers and civilian of the French & Indian War walk along the river...

...and posed for me.

There were plenty of us representing civilians of the Revolutionary War.
Susan Hansen,  proprietress of the Carrot Patch Farm
woolen sutlery,  was on hand to sell her wares via the good
old-fashioned way,  by placing her product inside a wooden
cart and walking throughout the camps  (and eras) 
to sell the items she herself makes.
In her modern life she raises sheep,  shears them,  and then prepares the wool for spinning on her spinning wheel.  Susan will then dye the wool utilizing various methods,  both period and modern.
Wait---did I say  "in her modern life" ??
At her Carrot Patch Farm sutlery,  one can purchase wool,  homespun yarn,  or even items she makes such as hats,  socks,  and mittens.
Top-notch quality all the way!

Tittabawassee Fife and Drum Corps 
I must say,  hearing the sounds of the fife & drum was...um...music to my ears.
No,  really!
I've spoken often of eight,  sound,  smell,  touch,  and taste - the five senses - playing
a major role in our transport to the past at events,  and the musical sounds of  groups
such as the Tittabawassee Fife and Drum Corps simply enhances the entire event!
I think it would have been cool to see a sort of Andrews Sisters group for the WWII section,  perhaps a hippie-type folk singing protester with the Viet Nam group,  and other music to help enhance other periods.
Just something to think about.
However,  interspersed throughout were old-timey musicians and groups. 

Also in the colonial section of the park were a couple of
blacksmiths,  including this one here.

USS Michigan was the United States Navy's first iron-hulled warship and served
during the American Civil War.  Michigan cruised on the Great Lakes during
most of the  Civil War,  providing an element of stability and security. 

I really like displays such as this,  where everything is displayed on blankets and
folks can ask about the items soldiers would have had during the time of
America's Civil War.

Civil War soldiers doing firing demonstrations.

The Union army had more than 70 volunteer Zouave regiments throughout the conflict,  while the Confederates fielded about 25 Zouave companies.
The Spiekerman's portrayal of Zouaves.
The volunteer regiments wearing red or striped baggy trousers,  short jackets, 
sashes,  and fez hats or turbans were inspired by the French Zouaves who
fought in North Africa in the middle of the 19th century.

Have you ever had a chicken cooked this way?
If not,  once you do,  you'll not want to go back to the more conventional way.
So  good!

2nd Michigan Hudson's Artillery
Based in the Saginaw Bay Valley area,  this group of soldiers and civilians escorts
an original 1841 six-pound smoothbore cannon into the field.  They've been very
active in education and historic preservation activities at
Historic Fort Wayne in downtown Detroit.

The return echo coming from across the Saginaw River from the cannon firing
was very cool.

We then take a leap up to World War II.
It very much surprised me with the low turn-out of WWII reenactors,  considering it is the hottest era going in the reenacting world today.
I'm thinking next year we'll see more of all eras in this timeline, 
including WWII

Now we'll head into the 1960s.
'Tis true that I did not take many pictures of the later wars - my fault.  There just seemed to be so much going on that I was bouncing around different eras minute by minute.  Plus I have some fairly close friends in the older eras that I don't see as often as I'd like to,  so I spent extra time with them.
Viet Nam was camped next to the WWII camp.

I wonder if their sign was based upon an actual sign.
Next year I'll make sure to get more photos of the later eras.

Living history timelines such as Bay City's River of Time are such amazing events to see the past come to life - to see progression from over a few centuries - culminating to the modern visitor.  As the program states  (and I fully agree):
Reenactors have the best knowledge and abilities for our historical presentations,  and our volunteers are able to support our event with their hard work and dedication to event logistics.  Reenactors find our first-person impressionists and help put together the programs for our education tent in addition to doing their own reenacting
However,  there is one line in the program that makes me particularly happy:
See you next year!  September 22,  23,  & 24,  2023~

Until next time,  see you in time.

To see a Port Sanilac and Chesterfield timeline event,  please click HERE

~   ~   ~

Monday, September 19, 2022

Celebrating the End of Summer Historically at the Armada Fair and the Selinsky-Green Farm House


There was such a strong  "fall feeling"  during each of the two events you are about to see,  even though both took place in August with heated temperatures and humidity.  But,  the coming of fall was in the air nonetheless.  Lammas Day in early August may attest to that. 


When it came to history as was taught when I went to school,  farming was hardly mentioned at all.  Even today,  aside from the kids in the history class where I work as a parapro,  only an offhanded agricultural comment is written in history books  ("most people back in those days were farmers").  Yet,  this subject - this occupation - was perhaps as important as any other job out there.  And it seems to have a growing interest of late.  I must say,  I am proud that I have been at the forefront of writing about historic farming and agricultural life for quite a while now.  But,  I am not just writing about it,  I am presenting about this subject,  and often a few of us can be seen accomplishing many period tasks and chores during reenactments.
In fact,  me and my presentation partner,  Larissa,  speak often on the subject throughout the year - if you click HERE you can read about how we present historic Victorian farming at an actual farming fair!
And though we were in August,  the feel of the season of autumn and harvest was in the air,  and this gives more of an understanding why Lammas Day  (mentioned above)  was such a celebration,  and it seems interest in the subject grows even greater in our modern age.
So now let's head back to an older Michigan,  though in a modern way: 
This was the 155th anniversary of the incorporation of
the rural Village of Armada,  Michigan,  and the
150th anniversary of the Armada Fair.
We were honored to be there.
Michigan was a very popular location for pioneers and immigrants searching for new homes and better lives.  "Michigan Fever"  infected thousands of Easterners and they flocked westward to this state in droves.  Macomb County was a center of  immigrant growth with the northern part experiencing rapid settlement from 1832-1836.  The wilderness had largely disappeared under the diligent farmers'  plow.
In its heyday,  the town of Armada boasted an opera house,  a theater,  seven grocery stores,  a hotel and livery stable,  three hardware stores,  a lumberyard,  a grain mill,  two implement dealers,  a bakery,  five doctors,  and several blacksmiths.
The community's strong ties to agriculture helped to bring about the well known Armada Fair  (an annual event since 1873).  It really seems that our fairs in this area tend to have their roots in farming,  and displays of old equipment and tools are a center of attraction.
Of course,  I had a bit of fun with that:
Me with my flail / hand thresher.
I have no idea of the age of the threshing machine behind me...and neither did
the guy who was running it.  I suspect it is relatively new.
With a flail,  one man could thresh 7 bushels of wheat,  8 of rye,  15 of barley,  18 of oats,  or 20 of buckwheat in a day.
Double that for two men.
Using a flail to thresh wheat in 1770.
The flail remained the principal method of threshing until the mid-19th century,  when mechanical threshers became widespread.
Threshing machines mechanically knocked the grain off the straw much quicker than the hand-held flail,  which took much more time and effort.
~This photo of the Moss Family Threshing Bee was taken in the 
late 19th century right in my hometown of Eastpointe,  
Michigan.  The farmhouse is still in owned by the descendants~
By the late 19th century there were steam powered threshing machines,  at a much greater cost of course.  Since most farmers could not afford to purchase a mechanical thresher,  a group of farmers would often pool together and the thresher's owner would visit each farm and thresh...for a price.
A 1904 Westinghouse Threshing Machine at historic Greenfield Village.
Here is a first-hand later 19th century account of what it was like on the farm during threshing time:
"Later in the week when the threshing crew arrived,  it was bedlam.  The enormous ungainly machine clanked up the lane,  pulled into the field by a team of six mules.  The steam engine was fired up with a clatter you could hear all of the way up at the big house and seemed to shake the shingles on its roof.  Men were feeding the sheaves into its hungry maw,  while more men were filling bags with the stream of kernels it disgorged,  tying them,  loading the wagons and driving them,  heavy,  to the granary,  where still another crew was waiting to unload and stack the bulging sacks.
Harriet recruited women to help her in the kitchen.  An enormous breakfast and an equally large noontime dinner had to be produced.  I rolled up my sleeves to do my share.  The kitchen and summer kitchen throbbed with heat from the cook stoves.  Dishes clattered.  Hurrying bodies bumped into one another as we carried platters to and fro.  By evening every muscle was screaming  ‘no-no-more,’  aware the ordeal would have to begin again at dawn the following day.
And then it was over.  The threshing crew moved on to the next farm,  the extra hands paid off.  There was quiet and satisfaction of knowing we had made a good crop."
But,  here is how Mr. Wilder felt about the new-fangled threshing machine  (taken directly from Laura Ingalls Wilder's wonderful book,  "Farmer Boy"):  
Mr.  Wilder thought the threshing machine was  "a lazy man's way to thresh.  Haste makes waste,  but a lazy man'd rather get his work done fast than do it himself.  That machine chews up the straw till it's not fit to feed stock,  and it scatters grain around and wastes it.  All's it saves is time,  and what good is time with nothing to do?"  
Yeah,  give me the flail any time over the machine!
The threshing machine in Armada was running when I took this picture.

But there was more to the Armada Fair than threshing.
Us,  for example:
We had a small set up,  just using a tent fly for a covering.  But it worked out very well,  especially when a pretty nasty thunderstorm came through in mid-afternoon.  Ahhh...we survived!

Sue brought along her flax break and hackle.
Yep - that's my thing as well,  but I will present mine during 18th century events
while she does 1860s.

This gentleman played the banjo wonderfully.  I requested  "Foggy Mountain
Breakdown" - the Flatt & Scruggs classic - and he honored my request.
I appreciated it.
The young girls in the background here enjoyed  "dressing the part."

~Summertime USA~
The midway of the fair:  food and other fair food such as corn on the cob,  carmel corn,  elephant ears,  cookies,  cinnamon roasted almonds,  kettle corn,  hot dogs and
burgers,  pop - - a wonderfully typical rural Michigan fair.  It was pretty awesome.
Rides were on the other side - I didn't make it that far.

There were barns/outbuildings for rabbits,  chickens,  goats,  and horses.
They had wool judging contests as well.

I spoke to the spectators mainly about 1860s / 1870s lighting. 
I included my hand-dipped candles and candle mold,  as well as my
1880s antique oil lamp.
Oh---and you already know I brought along my flail as well to speak
a bit about farming,  and I'm glad I did!

Candy weaved baskets.
She,  too,  garnered quite a bit of interest.
And so did - - - - - 
When you say Bud...
The Budweiser Clydesdales were there!
I never saw them up close!
You said it all...!

We only made it to the fair for one day - an all-day rain fell on Sunday and,  well,  being the finicky reenactors we are,  and not wanting wet canvas,  the decision was made to remain home and dry.
So it was the following Wednesday,  August 31,  that I took part in a chores presentation at the Selinsky-Green Farmhouse Museum,  located not too far from where I live,  over in our neighboring city of St.  Clair Shores.
The curator of the Selinsky-Green Farmhouse asked a few of us if we would be so
kind as to volunteer our time during their  "chores day"  on the last Wednesday
of  August.  It was unfortunate that in many areas school had already begun, 
so we didn't get nearly as many people - kids especially - as hoped. 

Here's a bit of  history as put on the historic placard.
I don't have to type it out!
We did have a young man and his mom come out together.  He was a bright lad who seemed genuinely interested in the past and was anxious to try out a few of the tools I brought along with me.
I helped him with a scythe,  my flail  (shown here), 
and a rake.  I explained his job as a young man on a farm in the 1860s. 
He commented how the skin on his hands hurt a little after handling the
farm tools.  I told him we needed to toughen his skin up!

Although you cannot tell from the top photo,  this house was built in what we
now call a  "saltbox"  style,  with the elongated slanted back roof.
These break-back / lean-to / saltbox structures are a classic staple of New England architecture,  first appearing in the United States around 1650,  making them 
among the oldest examples of American Colonial-style architecture.  
They remained a popular choice in the 17th and 18th centuries.
They were not as popular here in the Michigan/Midwestern region - 
not unheard of,  just not as popular.
Houses built in the later part of the 1860s were usually not in this  "salt-box"  manner,  which went out of style over a half-century earlier.  That's not to say they completely stopped building them this way - just saying there were not nearly as many as a century earlier. 
Not too long ago,  Kim Parr became the curator of the Selinsky-Green Farmhouse.
The Curator of the farm house is Kim Parr,  who is on the left in this photo.
Kim  "inventories,  curates the collection,  and create programming to match the mission and tell the story of the culture and how the Selinsky-Green family lived in St.  Clair Shores from the time they built the house.  I also see to the care-taking of the building inside and out.  Part of this includes working on efforts to make the home as accurate as possible.  Restoration and preservation projects are on-going."
Ah!  Too bad we didn't have an actual tintype taken of us!
Well,  this is the next best thing,  I suppose.
Kim works hard to bring history to life.  She's been doing it most of her adult life,  for she worked as a historic presenter at Greenfield Village,  then she moved to the Crocker House Museum in Mt.  Clemens,  and from there to the Selinsky-Green Farmhouse Museum.
And did you know she also sang in my Simply Dickens period vocal group for a number of years?
Simply Dickens 2013~
That's Kim on the far left.
On a sad note,  it was later in the evening of August 31,  2022,  the same date I was at Selinsky-Green Farmhouse,  that our Simply Dickens bass singer,  Tom  (TC)  Campbell  (second from left,  next to Kim),  passed away of a heart ailment.  Tom was a wonderful and very talented guy.  He played guitar as well as sang,  and he is one of the very few people I know who loved the Beatles more than me.  He will be sorely missed---not just in the group,  but as a friend.
That's Tom Campbell on the left,  my son Tommy in the middle,  and me on the right.


Both,  the Armada Fair and the Selinksy Green events were enjoyable to take part in.  If the weather was a bit more conducive at the Armada Fair,  we would have spent the full weekend there,  but,  as it were,  no one enjoys reenacting or presenting in the rain.
And I believe as long as Kim Parr keeps forging ahead,  her  "Chores Day"  for the younger folk and the other historical happenings,  such as 19th century cooking demonstrations,  will grow,  and continue to grow as word spreads.  Like everything,  you got to start somewhere,  and I believe Kim and this farm she curates is off to a good start.
So if we all keep our  passion for the past  and continue to teach people,  both young and old,  about times gone by,  days of future past  will be secure.

Until next time,  see you in time.

To learn about A Year on a Colonial Farm: Living By the Seasons,  please click HERE
To learn about historic farming through the centuries via TV,  please click HERE
To read about the farming presentations of Larissa & I,  please click HERE
To read more of our farming presentations at schools and reenactments,  click HERE

~   ~   ~